Russia rebuffs Israeli demand for 40 mi. Buffer with Iran in Syria (Haaretz)

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

According to Haaretz Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Vldadimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, to keep Iranian troops and Hizbullah militiamen in Syria about 40 miles from the Israeli border. The Russian replied that these were matters for the Syrian Arab Army, but that Russia could keep those forces only 3 miles from the border, which is no demilitarized zone at all.

In essence, Putin has claimed Syria as a Russian sphere of influence. And he has adopted the Iranians and the Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite militias as essential allies in Syria and elsewhere.

Israel’s leaders are afraid of a new, more accurate generation of rockets that Iran is giving to Hizbullah. Some of them might be able to hit Israeli targets from Syria.

But why should the Israeli leadership care about a few rockets? Because they are vulnerable to psychological warfare. It isn’t the rockets that matter. Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads and the best air force in the Middle East. Militarily, Iran and Hizbullah pose no danger at all to Tel Aviv.

But, about a million Israelis already have left Israel for the West, mostly the US, and many more are nervous about staying. Iran could potentially defeat Israel without firing a shot if it could make Israelis nervous enough about those rockets. Many could vote with their feet, or so Iran may hope.

Israel has already been occasionally hitting Shiite men and facilities in Syria, in hopes of sending a signal to Iran.

But I think there is a bigger issue here, which is that Israel had been treating Syria as its own sphere of influence. Now it is having to yield that position to an outsider, Russia. And Russia has other fish to fry than Israeli border security.

If the Russians, moreover, upgrade Syria’s military capabilities and anti-aircraft batteries, that process would make Syria even less vulnerable.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT World: “The War in Syria: Israeli war planes target Syrian military base”

8 Responses

  1. When you say “the Israeli border”you don’t really mean the border to Israel, do you? You mean the border between Syria and the part of Syria that is occupied by Israel. First Israel occupies part of Syria as a “buffer zone” and then they demand that Syrian military stay away from part of the remaining country as a buffer zone to protect their buffer zone.

  2. This post may answer the question you asked (implied?) A few weeks ago, about Netanyahu’s agenda for complaining about Syria. Many of us then speculated a new round of settlements he wanted to distract the world from noticing.

    It seems Israel will be able to get away with that particular bad behavior, but out-migration could become a real existential threat.

  3. For once, Bibli has a legitimate grievance. The last thing his government wants is to see is a cohort of Iranian soldiers right across the border from Israeli villages. Putin views Syria as a sphere of influence and doesn’t give a fig about the security of civilians in northern Israel. But if the Russians continue to turn a blind eye, that’s going to lead to more instability along the border.

  4. Israel seems peeved at the idea that they might no longer be able to punch Syria and Lebanon around with impunity, as it has grown accustomed to. Israel has been evoking that aphorism about every problem looking like a nail when your only tool is a hammer, and it needs to learn that a heavy-handed military approach is not a viable long-term solution to its perceived security problems. Perhaps a new balance of power overseen by the Russians will be a wake-up call.

  5. Add Netanyahu’s current legal vulnerability to the mix and one might begin to detect the germination of a resolution to the Palestinian issue.

  6. Russia currently has surplus S-300 systems in Syria to protect Russian aircraft and airports. Russia has LOTS of other surplus S-300 systems that could easily be given to Syria.

    Note that Russian has replaced most of their own country’s S-300 systems with better S-400 and early versions of the even better S-500. Also, Iran has effectively cloned the S-400/S-500 by reverse engineering the S-300 that “magically appeared” in Iran and vastly improving it. They shared the technology with China so both Iran and China have more advanced systems than Russia.

    Basically Israel is screwed because Syria can get advanced anti-aircraft system from several sources (Russia, Iran or China) that can easily shoot down most Israeli military aircraft soon after they take off from Israeli bases.

    BTW – Per the IDF the number of missiles pointed at Israel exceeds 50,000 with many being the newer, highly accurate versions (actually the IDF said in budget discussions that there are over 100,000 missiles, but I have discounted that number due to the usual military hype during budget discussions).

    Right now as the globe transitions from physical labor to brain labor and the post WW2 baby boom is dying off, there is a global shortage of good highly skilled brains so anyone with a decent brain in Israel can easily find a nice place to live outside the perpetual war zone known as Israel.

  7. Dear Vladimir,

    I write to ask you a small favor. As you know, we chose to violate international law and conquer part of Syria a few years ago. My country would like Russia to recognize this conquest and induce Syria to accept it. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, we would also like you to keep Russian troops at least 40 miles away from the new border, and to use Russian power to prevent Syria and Iran from placing any troops in that buffer zone.

    Yes, I know we’ve criticized Russia’s activities in Syria, Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere as odious and morally reprehensible. But you know what we say here, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, unless Israel is the goose.

    Your cooperation in this matter is much appreciated.

    Best Regards,

  8. Russia will simply see Israel as an extension of the U.S.A. much as the other middle eastern countries will become extensions of Russia. O.k. this will not end well. Russia and Israel have nukes. Don’t some of these countries have something else to do besides try to fight and extend their spheres of influence. aren’t there more pressing needs, well most likely not in the eyes of the leaders because they’re all rich and well supplied.

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